Cyclist came late to the sport but discovered she was a natural

Roach with her coach John M. Ledford, Jr.  Credit: Sandy Burgin/
SAN DIEGO — Talk about dedication. Three times a week, Terry Roach, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., flies from Phoenix to San Diego to work out and train four to five hours each day at the San Diego Velodrome.

"If anything, Terry has too much dedication," says her coach John Ledford, Jr. "She's a Type A personality if you ever saw one. But she's obviously got a ton of talent and she's one of those people that if she had found track racing earlier and had the opportunity to do it when she was young, she probably would have been a world or Olympic medalist."

Alas, Terry Roach didn't get into cycling until her late 30s. And she didn't get involved in road racing until she was 42 and took to track racing after turning 44.

However, over the last four years Roach, now 48, has tried to make up for lost time. She has won two master's national silver medals, two master's national gold medals; set 10 national records and currently holds three age division records in the 3,000 Individual Pursuit in the 35, 40 and 45-plus age groups.

Last month, Roach, competing against cyclists 18 to 28 years younger, finished sixth overall in the 3K Individual Pursuit in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Cycling at the Superdrome in Frisco, Texas.

She is currently in training for the masters national championships in July in Indianapolis and the World Championships in Manchester, England, in September on Labor Day weekend.

"I've really achieved a lot in a very short period of time," Roach said on a recent visit to the San Diego Velodrome. "But as John Ledford said, if I could have started earlier I could have competed at the world and Olympic levels. But I am still grateful that I've found my sport. My body is built for the pursuit and it's built for track cycling.

"I'm just glad that I've been given the opportunity, and that's what so wonderful about masters racing," Roach said. " You have a chance to prove yourself when you're over 40 or over 30. You just get up and do it; you have to believe in yourself. One thing this has proven to me is that I can achieve anything I want."

Terry Roach has been on the move since she was born.

"My father was in the Air Force, so I was from everywhere," Roach said. "When I was growing up sports weren't cool for girls, so I was a cheerleader. It really wasn't until I got out of college that I just took up running for recreation. I did some 10K races and eventually got into marathoning."

Roach developed some back problems and underwent back surgery. "After that I found out that I couldn't run so well anymore, so I decided to take up cycling," she said.

Roach began cycling in 1989. She did some 50-mile fun rides and fund-raisers. Then she started to do duathlon and triathlons. However, she discovered that running bothered her back and that she was a very good cyclist and so decided to pursue her strength.

"I did some road races as a Cat-4, which is the beginning level for women," Roach said. " I was pretty successful but never trained right. I would go out as fast and as hard as I could all the time. I had no plan and would still always place in the top three. I knew I had a lot of potential."

During one of those competitions John Serra, a coach from Tucson, Ariz., saw Roach riding.

"He told me that if I would let him work with me, I could be a champion rider. He took me from a Category 4 rider to a Category 2, second from the highest level. I did stage races on the national level and finished 11th overall in the GC (General Category) against professional women. I did very well in a short period of time."

But it wasn't until four years ago that Roach thought seriously about track racing. And while she had a great deal of success over that time she was ready to end her career on the track last fall.

"I had won three national and two world masters championships in 1998, but I didnt achieve the times that I had expected," Roach said. "I pretty much had decided I would retire from track racing in September. Then I started training for the road this season. Six weeks before the Olympic Trials a friend of mine called me and said, 'Why aren't you going to do the Olympic Trials?'"

"Even though I figured they had the team pretty well decided I didn't have a real good answer as to why I shouldn't give it a shot," Roach said. "Once I made my decision to go for it I decided to get back with my old coach John Ledford Jr. and Jane Quigley, who is a multiple national and world champion.

"It was a five-week, slam-bang training session," Roach said, who began her tri-weekly trips from Phoenix to San Diego to work with Ledford and train at the San Diego Velodrome.

Asked about the traveling back-and-forth, Roach acknowledged "there aren't too many idiots from Arizona that do this."

No, and there aren't too many 48-year-old riders able to compete with athletes more than 20 years their junior.

Roach's time for the Olympic Trials for the 3,000 Individual Pursuit was 4:03.847, which was just three seconds off her personal best. Karen Kurreck of Los Altos Hills, Calif. won the event in 3:47.538.

"That performance was a real pick-me-up," Roach said. "I'm back on the track now and am going to see how many records I can break this year in the masters division and now I'm happy doing it again."

Roach says she gains a lot of confidence and inner peace when riding her bike.

"If I'm upset and stressed, all I have to do is get on the bike and start riding," Roach said. "It allows me a chance to think and gives me tremendous confidence as a person. Riding the bike has helped me in my business, with my children and with my relationships."

Roach, who is an Exercise Physiologist and Registered Kinesiotherapist, owns her own company Body Stabilization Training, Inc. located in Phoenix. She has raised two children — 23-year-old Justin and 19-year-old Kristy — as a single mom for the last 14 years.

"I have gone through all kinds of things in my life," Roach said. "When people tell me they don't have time for something, I tell them you have to make the time if you want something badly enough. I have put forth a lot of effort and made a lot of sacrifices, but nothing comes easily. That's what's wonderful about sports, if you work hard eventually you're going to see your efforts pay off."

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